Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Issues

A bunch of new reading material is hitting the virtual streets as the New Year opens its door. Here is a listing, the links are to the left.

Already up are:
Mysterical E and Crooked - this zine can be found at Eastern Standard Crime.
The Back Alley and Thrilling Detective are set to launch their new issues tomorrow.

Happy reading!

And a quick update - The Back Alley has gone live today.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008


Big Pulp opens for submissions on January 1 for a month long reading period. Also Crooked is still looking for submissions for its February issue. And don't forget Flash Fiction Offensive is still looking for flash submissions. Sharpen your pencils and polish your words, my friends, then submit - submit- submit.

Another Closed Zine

I believe we've lost Grim Graffiti and its sister zine Pen Pricks. The pages have vanished from the web and I've tried contacting both Elizabeth and C.M. Clifton, who publish and edit the zine, with no response from either. If I hear anything to the contrary, I'll let you know.

Also the Crimson Highway zine is on hiatus but will hopefully return in 2009. The archives are still available here and their press is still open to longer short stories and novellas with a link at the zine site.

New Contest

Jason Evans has just announced his newest contest at his Clarity of Night blog. This is the tenth contest and I'm looking forward to writing a flash and entering. This contest has prizes but those aside, this is one of the best web experiences for writers. The stories are posted as they come in and comments are open and everyone shares their thoughts and ideas about writing and the stories. It's great fun. Pasted below is the announcement, you can find the contest picture here

Past Contest Participants and Friends:

I'm kicking off 2009 with a new Clarity of Night short fiction contest! Since my last contest was in the summer, I'm pumping this one up! More and bigger prizes!! First place will earn an Amazon gift certificate of $50. Also, I'm adding additional prizes for second and third place winners of the Readers Choice Award.
The contest will open on Tuesday, January 6th and will be open for just over one week. As with past contests, the limit is 250 words. Any genre or form is welcome so long as it is inspired by the "Ascension" photo. Rules will be posted when the contest opens, but they will be the same as the last contest posted here:
I'm giving everyone an early peek at the picture so participants can start thinking of what they'd like to write. I've attached a copy. Also, if you'd like to post an announcement on your own blog/site to spread the word, it would be greatly appreciated!!

See you all soon,

--Jason Evans

Monday, December 29, 2008

Balancing Acts

So, I've returned from the other side of my life. What? You didn't notice that I was gone? Of course, you didn't, you have another life, too. Sometimes our writing lives and our real lives clash and one has to take precedence over the other because life is a balance -- a ying for every yang, so to speak.

This was brought home to me in a very real way this year. My father passed away in August and December brought me a new grandson. Balance, life and death, the old passing the torch to the new. And life carries on.

Writing is a balance, its work but it's also joy. Stories come pouring out of our keyboards combining moments of humour with the darkest of crimes, or spilling a bit of romance into a thriller, tossing in whatever provides balance to make a story unique.

Last year, I submitted stories everywhere as soon as they were written, not caring where I was published, so long as I was published. This year, I took my time, let the stories simmer in their file folders, dragged them back out and rewrote them until they gleamed. While I still tend to be over-eager sending out my stories, I learned to be a little pickier in selecting markets this year. And the greatest joy in doing this was finding my stories published in zines I'd only dreamed about before.

Last year, all I wrote was flash fiction. This year, I've learned to let a story go where it chooses, adding in more character and setting and emotions. This year I spent over a month on one story, every day cutting and adding and polishing until I had a 4500 word story that is out on submission right now. And I loved writing this story. It's, perhaps, one of the best stories I've ever written. Again, balance. Learning to stretch from the known into the unknown, letting go of the old to embrace the new.

Last year, writing a blog was just a dim thought, something I might do in the future. This year, My Little Corner was born, and I can't imagine not doing it. I've found this a wonderful place to share my thoughts on writing, markets, and stories and books I've read. A diary of my writing life, but also a diary for those writers who share their writing life with me.

And so, I'm learning to find a balance in my writing life, learning when to let go and when to hold fast, learning new writing tools, then using them in my stories, and last, but most important, learning how to share what I've learned, then listening and learning from those who share with me. Life is a balancing act, my friends, and may you always find that yang for every ying that touches your life.

And a quote today from Isacc Bashevis Singer
"The waste basket is the writer's best friend."

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Got A Story?

Crooked is now open for submissions to their second issue. You can find the details at Eastern Standard Crime.

Remember, you can't be published if you don't submit. Write - Submit - Write - Submit. Repeat until you're fingers are worn to a stub, then start again, because that's what writers do.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Finding Life in the Words

It doesn't take much for writers to start doubting themselves. This past week I got blindsided by three stories that made me question why I bother writing. The stories? First, Patti Abbott's "The Instrument of Their Desire" at Beat to a Pulp. Second, "A Little Harmless Fun" by Jake Hinkson over at A Twist of Noir. And third, also at BTAP, "Hard Bite" by Anonymous-9. Wow! These stories leave you breathless.

But as I took a step back, I realized that even these three stories were different, all powerful in their own special ways. And it struck me that voice is what makes them unique. Each author has their own special voice, which makes each writer unique.

Finding your voice is one of the most difficult lessons for a writer. I remember writing dialogue like Robert Parker, trying to create prose like James Burke, and action scenes like Robert Crais, only to realize that hey, that's not me. So, I've spent this last year searching for my own voice, finding it in the world I grew up in, trying to paint a picture of the people and the county where I live. Trying to fill my characters with some of my fears and beliefs. Am I succeeding? Only time will tell.

What about you? Have you found your unique voice yet or are you still searching through the words?

And a quote today from Virginia Woolf:
"Each has a past shut in him like the leaves of a book known to him by heart and his friends can only read the title."

Friday, December 19, 2008

An X-rated Snoopy Dance

Editor, Rey Gonzalez, at the new flash site, The Flash Fiction Offensive has just published my story "Loaded Guns". Every once in a while, I like to cut loose with a really nasty story and this one fills the bill. It has the F-bomb and a lot of sexual innuendo. If you don't mind being offended you can read it here:

Mr. Gonzalez asked me to spread the word that he's looking for submissions, so get writing, guys. Also the stories are eligible to be picked up for Out of the Gutter's flash section, same as Muzzle Flash.

Just a little addition here: I feel like Christmas came early, Christopher Grant has accepted and posted a Christmas story I wrote at A Twist of Noir. Snoopy's in overdrive today :-) I posted the link to "A Mulberry Street Christmas" in the Sampler column if anyone cares to read it.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Times Gone By

Our county historical society submits a column to the local papers called 100 Years Ago. They use clips from the old newspapers that were published around the county by the various small towns. The columns are always interesting, full of a variety of crimes like stealing chickens or horses from the local farms. A woman shoving her husband down the cellar steps. Robbers breaking into stores and stealing food. Kids stealing teams and wagons to go for joy rides. Such a different world but still the same basic human nature.

But this NEWS BRIEF, as it was titled, made me realize how difficult it must be for writers of historical fiction to get things correct:

"Every young lady may mark it down as a fact that if she flirts and associates with "pick ups" she will soon have no others for associates. No matter how unjust it may be there will always be a suspicion that those who are not above making acquaintances in this way are not as pure in heart and mind as they ought to be. It would be unjust to say no pure minded girls flirt. They do and many of them lose their purity by so doing. Others, though not so unfortunate, are subject to suspicions, which every woman should be above."

Wow! Talk about your moral high ground. Those people would be shocked if they were dropped into today's world. I remember when I was growing up they still stamped BASTARD on birth certificates and the women who had children out of wedlock were shunned by other women and thought easy prey by the men.

Just some odd thoughts to keep in mind if you write stories that take place in the past. It's not just the clothes and cars and foods that are different, but the moral attitudes also.

And a quote from Thomas Hardy:
"The business of the poet and the novelist is to show the sorriness underlying the grandest things, and the grandeur underlying the sorriest things."

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

John Steinbeck on Short Story Writing

I'm a regular reader of the Criminal Brief blog. The writers there are all short story writers and always share great information about writing shorts. Today's post is one of their Master Class series. It's a letter to writers essay from John Steinbeck. Here's the url Enjoy!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Beat to a Pulp

has hit the streets with a most excellent story from Patti Abbott to kick things off. Do yourself a favor and pop on over for a read. Here's the url and since this link doesn't want to work no matter how much I threaten to beat it to a pulp, you can use the one to the left in the zine column.

Hitting the Right Notes

It always amazes me where I find those little tidbits of knowledge that take me one step further on my writing journey. Yesterday my lesson came from Meatloaf, the singer, not the meal.

I was watching Private Sessions on the Biography channel yesterday and Meatloaf was the guest. He started talking about the different singers out there explaining that some of them, like Linda Ronstadt, hit every note perfectly for a wonderful song but he said, singers like Judy Garland and Frank Sinatra didn't just hit the notes, they sang the emotions. They brought the lyrics to life. He said that when he sings, he sees the song in his head, like a movie and tries to bring that vision alive with his voice by tapping into his emotions.

Writing is like that. Many writers can hit all the right notes and their stories are great, but there's no emotional connection and the story fades from our mind as soon as we’re done reading. But the truly great stories strike a cord inside of us, touching us on a deeper level and those are the stories that stay in our memories forever.

There’s an old saying that to write, just slit open a vein and bleed onto the page. Many writers believe that refers to the hard work involved in the writing process. But, for me, it means more than that. It means slitting open a vein and letting my heart pump its secrets and truths onto the page. Do I manage that with every story? Of course not, nobody does. But that’s what I strive for. The more I write, the deeper I dig into myself, into the memories that make me the writer I am, and the one I strive to be.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Another New Market

Stopped by the Out of the Gutter blog to see what was going on and found that they're starting a new flash site to replace Muzzle Flash. I posted their guidelines below but here's the url if you're looking for more and if the links don't happen to come through. I'll post their link to the right in the zine column. Pass the word.

This site is here to fill the vacuum left by the sudden disappearance of DZ Allen's Muzzle Flash, but also to be an excellent place in its own right for sharing hardcore, hilarious and otherwise stimulating fiction around and under 700 words.
As with Muzzle Flash, all the stories posted here will be eligible for inclusion in the opening section of Out of the Gutter Magazine's next issue, and, as with Muzzle Flash, we encourage readers and writers to post their reactions to the flash fiction that appears here, because the author will then post their reactions to your work, and the interaction and reciprocal commentary will make the experience more fulfilling for everyone. It's the right thing to do.
The boss here is Rey A. Gonzalez, contributor to the infamous Out of the Gutter 2, assistant editor in subsequent issues, and a hell of a writer in his own right. We want to get this bastard underway asap, so send your submissions to Rey here, and please observe the following formatting guidelines:
Story title and author name up top.
Single space your work and do NOT indent paragraphs. Put one space between paragraphs. The purpose of this is to make the work easy to past onto the site and not to cause us to waste a lot of time making it look pretty and begin to hate you in the process.
Also give some thought to grammar. If the story fits the bill, that is, if it isn't a vague, flowery reminiscence about grandma's last days, we want to put it up--but we may not have time to give it the fine-toothed comb treatment.
Finally, follow your story with your bio, just how you'd like it to appear, with any links you want etc.
As for the style and subject matter, if you're familiar with what happens at Out of the Gutter and what happened at Muzzle Flash you probably already have a pretty good idea. If not, read the OOTG Submission Guidelines, and Rey will get his own spin on it up here pretty soon.
That's it. Get writing.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Random Lessons

I just finished reading "A Walk Among the Tombstones" by Lawrence Block. It's one of his Matthew Scudder books and I enjoyed it quite a bit. I'd tried Block once before but the book I chose went a whole chapter discussing some rare stamp which bored me to tears and I never picked up another of his books until now. But the book isn't what I'd like to talk about in this post. My mind tends to track sideways and Block brought back some memories that I thought I'd share.

Back in the eighties when I decided to try my hand at writing, I picked up a copy of Writer's Digest. That was my first introduction to Block. He wrote the fiction column and dispensed the most amazing advice to beginners like me "who wanted to give writing a whirl and make a million bucks". God, how stupid was I?

The Writer's Digest was an amazing learning tool for me and besides Block, there was Judson Jerome, Gary Provost, and J. Michael Straczynski. Every time the magazine showed up in my mailbox, these were the first four articles that I read before combing through the rest.

Jerome wrote the poetry column that wasn't just about poetry. He taught me how to think poetry to write fiction combining the beauty of both.

Provost had the non-fiction column and the best piece of advice I remember him giving was to write "evergreens", pieces that could be used anytime during the year. He said that editors hold on to evergreens. He was right. I had a magazine hold one of mine for ten years before I got a letter and a check for $50 saying they wanted to use the piece.

The thing I remember most from Block was that not everyone can write a novel when they first start writing. Start small, he said, work your way up on small successes. He said so many writers thought only novels were worth writing and didn't bother to learn the craft well enough and ended up disappointed with a rejected manuscript in their desk drawer.

Straczynski wrote the screen writing column. At the time he was also scripting "Murder, She Wrote" and working on "Babylon 5". From him I learned about plotting and dialogue and how to keep a story moving forward.

Wonderful, wonderful teachers, who weren't afraid to share their knowledge and teach others the craft of writing. My thanks to all of them.

And a quote from Gary Provost:
"It is the writer's job, not the reader's, to see that writing accomplishes whatever goal the writer has set for it."

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

For the History Buffs

Looking to learn more about the hard-boiled writers of the past? Well, there's a new site out there with lists of authors, their histories, and their books. I've just skimmed over it a bit, but it looks fantastic. Thanks to Nathan Cain's Independent Crime blog for providing the link. Here's the url

I'll also post the link to the left.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

To Series or Not to Series

A post on Lee Goldberg's blog A Writer's Life got me thinking about mystery writers and series characters. The mystery genre tends toward same character books, I guess because they make readers comfortable, there's name recognition and a built in marketing device. All good for the publishers but what about the writers?

Mr. Goldberg was discussing Robert B. Parker's newest book, "Rough Weather" and he was totally unimpressed. Now I've always loved Parker's books and always scanned for his name on the spine of the books at the library. But I have to admit that the last few years I've stopped reading his books. Spenser has become the same old, same old. The Jesse Stone novels were wonderful at first but Jesse's obsession with his ex-wife is just the most stupid thing I've ever read. Every time I read the books I want to reach in and smack that man and tell him she's a slut, get past it. And Sunny Randall is just Spenser in drag, dog and all. I quit reading her after two books.

There are several series that I've read and finally just tossed them against the wall mentally. Patterson's Alec Cross, Sue Grafton's Kinsey Millhone and Patricia Cornwell's Kay Scarpetta. In all of these series I felt the writer didn't play fair with me.

Cornwell killed off a major character, gave us a full book of grieving, then brought him back to life without a hint that he might be alive. I'm not stupid, readers were pissed, weren't they? So the writer is forced to bring back the dead. She should have stood her ground and kept him dead rather than cave. It was her story to tell, wasn't it? Or are the readers telling writers what they have to write these days?

Patterson had a bad guy on the fringes of his Cross books who Alex was always trying to catch. Damn, it was the guy who was hiring him to solve cases. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. Perhaps Patterson couldn't figure out who the bad guy was and just tossed us someone to get rid of him? Might have worked better if it had been Samson and he was jealous of Cross's fame. That would have made more sense.

As for Grafton I quit reading her when she went off on a rant about people picking their noses in their cars and three chapters in I already knew who the killer was. So why do writers keep writing these series characters when they're just phoning the story in?

There are series that I still read like Tess Gerritsen's Rizzoli/Isles books. She manages to keep them fresh and also her writing by doing stand alone books in between the series so when she comes back to her characters she's looking at them with fresh eyes. Something I wish more writers would do.

So what is the purpose of this post? I'd like to write a novel, but I know that if I choose to write in the mystery genre, the agents and publishers are going to want a series character, something they can count on year after year. A popular series is money in the bank for them, but will it kill my love of writing if I succeed (and that's a really big if, folks! )? Will I start phoning it in just to put another check in the bank? Are there series out there that keep getting better or do they just level off to the point that the writer is so bored they just don't care anymore?

And are there new writers out there who aren't required to come up with a series to stay published? I know there are a few like Alexandra Sokoloff, Duane Swierczynski, Dave Zeltserman and Louise Ure. But are these the rare birds or will the business change to allow for more of these books. Will writers be allowed to explore new characters and take their writing to a new level every time out? And can readers learn to follow authors instead of series characters?

And a quote from Andre Gide:
"The most beautiful things are those that madness prompts and reason writes."

Saturday, December 6, 2008

A Snoopy Dance for David!

Friend of the Corner, David Cranmer, has a flash story up at A Twist of Noir. His story A Golden God can be found here

Congrats, David!!!

Winter's Magic Moments

There's a chill wind whipping outside my window with Old Man Winter blowing lacy snowflakes through the air from the depths of his cold heart. There's something beautiful about snow, it's virgin whiteness spreading across the landscape hiding the crumpled fall of Autumn's leaves. Despite his cold and over-bearing ways the Old Man can still generate a subtle heat that fills our hearts with a treasured warmth.

The cherished sound of children tossing snowballs, laughter filling the air as they careen down steep hillsides, or watching them hold their breath, praying for a pinch of magic as they place that top hat on a frosty snowman's head. The crackle of a warm barrel fire beside a pond full of ice skaters. Hot Chocolate warming tired bodies from the inside out. Cuddling in front of a fire place reading The Night Before Christmas to sleepy children trying to stay awake to catch a glimpse of Santa Claus.

Winter doesn't have to be about the frigid temperatures or shoveling snow or curses filling the air when the car battery dies. Set aside your adult concerns every now and then and look at winter through the eyes of your childhood memories and embrace the magic of snow angels to help ease your winter woes and doldrums.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Shut My Mouth

We're always told that as writers we have to find our own voice. In Amy's review she stated that she didn't know what shit-kickers, voluptuous, and niggling meant. That seemed odd to me as they're quite common terms where I live, well, maybe not voluptuous, but I like the way the word rolls off my tongue. And it's a great substitute for curvaceous or sexy or built like a brick shit house.

Now here's my problem. I always sprinkle my stories with words and phrases that are common to my area and I try to always use them in context so readers can understand what I'm saying without having to use a dictionary to keep up with the story. That's my voice, the way I think, talk, and write. But if my readers can't understand what I'm saying do I have to change my voice? Are the old-fashioned words and phases out of style even when they come from the mouth of an older person who would have grown up talking that way?

Let's face it, a senior citizen isn't going to be talking rap and most definitely a rapper isn't going to be slinging words like voluptuous around. So how do you find a middle ground that won't alienate readers and still keep your own voice?

The quote today comes from Jeffery Deaver:
"If the bad guy in a book is a superficial caricature, then the hero's victory against him means little."

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Decisions, Decisions

I've been reading through Hallie Ephron's book "Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel". I've heard wonderful and not so wonderful things about this book. Me, I'm middle of the road about it.

Most of the writing advice covers the same ground every book on writing does. And truth be told, there's really nothing new to teach, just new ways to explain it. What I like about this book is everything is broken down and I mean everything. Not sure about chapters, it's in there. Don't know how to plot, it's there. Everything from planning to selling is broken down so even an idiot like me can follow the bread crumbs to the end.

The only problem I can see with all this planning and outlining and character sketches is, will you lose the magic? You know, that tiny little unplanned sentence, or that stupid character that came out of nowhere to trip up your protagonist by leading him on a wild goose chase.

Like the story I was working on today. My bounty hunter is tracking down a man when all of a sudden she says, "He saved my life, I owe him one." Okaaay, now where is this story going? I had this whole hunt down the bad guy scenario shaping up in my head, knew exactly where I was going and bam. Those are the magic moments, the unexpected twists that make a story special for me.

So my question is this, if you've outlined from beginning to end, what happens to a story that doesn't want to go where your outline is supposed to take you? Do you trash the outline and go with the side trip that's way more interesting or do you stick with the outline and maybe miss a scene that could turn the story into something total unexpected?

And a quote from Mark Twain today:
"Don't say the old lady screamed. Bring her on and let her scream."

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Whys of It

Every day I sit down in front of the computer and wonder why. Why do I write? Why are all these people living in my head? Why is the story on the page different from the one in my head? Why do I bother? Why can't I stop?

And then I smile as the words start to flow out from under my fingertips and I wrap words into sentences that are twisted into pages of paragraphs. Getting it down, then crafting it into something publishable makes my heart sing. And I know that all the whys are just sneaky little doubts trying to stop me from doing what I love.

I don't think of my writing as a path to rich and famous. Getting paid for what I love to do would be nice but fame is a fleeting thing and not worth striving for. For me, writing is about telling a story, about finding that hidden voice inside of me that needs to speak out in ways that I never could. And in a roundabout way, giving a voice to people like me who are afraid to open up and invite the world into their lives and dreams. We're the wallflowers who sit in the corner and listen and observe so we can go home at the end of the day and weave our tales of lived lives and battered dreams and fairytale endings.

And our quote today is from Daphne DuMaurier:
"Writing a book is like a purge; at the end of it one is a dry shell on the beach, waiting for the tide to come in again."